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Sahel is a band of musicians from diverse backgrounds who believe in honoring multi-cultural evolution by performing currently relevant genres of music from the African Diaspora including, Zouk (French Caribbean), Mbalax (Senegal), Samba (Brazil), Reggae (Jamaica) and Salsa (Cuba/latin diaspora)
Sahel is inspired by tradition and dedicated to the progress of music that moves the world.
Through an international, multi-lingual, music selection, Sahel seeks to build cultural bridges and raise awareness through the rejuvenating power of African-based musical styles. Sahel will call you to the dance floor while connecting you to the rhythms, spirit, languages and cultures from which the music was born.
Sahel is based in Washington, DC and is the vision of lead singer and guitarist, Jean-Francis Varre.
Jean-Francis is the first-born son of a Senegalese father and Cape Verdean mother, who came to Washington, DC from Senegal to attend college. From childhood through adolescence, Jean-Francis was raised between continents returning to Africa every summer.
A self-taught singer, songwriter and instrumentalist, Jean-Francis learned to sing and perform the music he heard and loved in his youth; eventually becoming a skilled and respected performer in many genres and singing songs in six languages including English, French, Wolof, Creole, Spanish and Portuguese.
Inspired by a growing number of people from diverse backgrounds venturing out of their musical comfort zones and becoming a new audience for the music he knew, Jean-Francis joined forces with bassist/composer Stewart Bernard in 2010 to form a new band.
Stew is an accomplished Jazz and Latin musician of New Orleans and Jamaican roots. From 2005-09, he and Jean-Francis were band mates in the Salsa/Timba orquestra, Ashe. Together, Jean-Francis and Stew formed the core of Sahel and began rehearsing musical genres such as Mbalax, Zouk and Reggae as a semi-acoustic duo.
Within a few months Jean-Francis approached drummer Tosin Aribisala and keyboardist Dan Paul to join Sahel.
Tosin Aribisala, is a Nigerian drummer/percussionist who has mastered styles from Africa, America and the Caribbean. Tosin is a former member of Femi Kuti’s band and the creator and musical director of a DC Afro Beat group called African Rhapsody.
Dan Paul, Dan is a composer, studio engineer, performer and a jazz piano professor at the University of Pennsylvania who currently resides in Washington, DC.
Recently joining the Sahel line-up is djembe drummer, Jabari Exum, from the West African Percussion Orchestra, Farafina Kan. Jabari is a multi-talented drummer, rapper, producer, poet, keyboardist, percussionist and dancer. He is also a founding member of Hueman Prophets, a DC-based hip-hop duo.
“On top of the great talent this collective of musicians brings to Sahel”, says Jean-Francis, “it’s fitting that they are from diverse but musically-connected backgrounds that represent the cross-cultural flavors and expressions of Sahel so well.”
To sum it all up, a Sahel performance promises a high-energy, global dance party experience and a magical, melodic journey from Africa, around the Caribbean, through the Americas and home to Africa again. No passport required--no boundaries. Wear your dancing shoes and come to party with Sahel.